The ice-strengthened bulk carrier Nordic Orion was loaded with coal at a Vancouver terminal and left port 13 days ago en route to Finland via the Northwest Passage.
No commercial vessels have undertaken this voyage since the SS Manhattan broke through in 1969. Transport Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard are monitoring the journey and the Nordic Orion is required to check in daily with Nordreg, a Coast Guard agency, Transport Canada said. The ship is scheduled to arrive in Pori, Finland, in early October. Nordic Bulk (owner) complies with the rules of the country in which it is sailing, according to a company spokesman. The 25-person crew on the ship includes a Canadian ice pilot with a couple of decades’ experience in the waterway.
The Nordic Orion is carrying B.C. metallurgical coal bound for Rautaruukki Corp., a Finnish steel company. Nordic Bulk beat other contenders for the job with a bid based on savings of about 1,000 nautical miles and four or five days of sailing time. Nordic Bulk was also able to carry more coal – a fully-loaded 73,000 tonnes – than the 60,000 tonnes or so that could pass through the shallower Panama Canal.
On September 13, Arctic sea ice reached its likely minimum extent for 2013. The minimum ice extent was the sixth lowest in the satellite record, and reinforces the long-term downward trend in Arctic ice extent. Sea ice extent will now begin its seasonal increase through autumn and winter.
Nordic Bulk Carriers is a dry bulk shipping company with special expertise in ice class bulk carriers. Nordic Bulk Carriers reached a milestone in 2010 when they became the first operator to use the Northern Sea Route . The company shipped iron ore from northern Norway to China, across Russian sea, through the north-east passage. Nordic Bulk Carriers is a subsidiary of Bulk Partners Limited. The company is privately owned and not listed on an exchange.
It will be interesting to follow the voyage of Nordic Orion through the Northwest Passage. Smooth sailing may point to increased traffic in future years.